Although most people in the West don’t have to mull over the condition for discipleship seriously as they decide to follow Jesus, that hasn’t been true throughout Church history—in fact, the Church itself has sometimes been responsible for persecuting Christians and forcing them to decide to give up their lives for Jesus. Nor is it true for believers in much of the world today. Regardless of where we live, however, we must be prepared to give up our lives for Him. It’s something we should consistently bring before Him when we pray. If we struggle with being willing to make this ultimate sacrifice, we must pray that He will make us willing.

If we want to be His disciples, that is.

It is here that Jesus pauses and tells a parable that will illustrate how we must count the cost of following Him. He tells the story of a man who planned to build a tower. It just makes sense that, if he wanted to do this, he should determine in advance whether he had adequate funding to finish the job. Otherwise, there will be just a foundation or an abandoned, half-built eyesore encumbering the ground.

Not a great testimony.

And at the risk of offending lots of people, this is the rubble we see in the Western Church, human buildings begun with great joy and transformation, now sadly unfinished; plants birthed by the seed planted by the loving Sower, choked now by “the cares and riches and pleasures of life” (Luke 8:14). And we leaders have not been examples to them of a life that is otherwise lived, a life divinely confined by following Jesus’ through the narrow gate that few find (Matthew 7:13).

He continues the parable by using the illustration of a king who is faced with fighting an enemy. If he wants to win and not be defeated, he must weigh whether or not he has the resources that will enable him to conquer his foe. If he doesn’t, he would be wiser to come to a compromise so that he won’t suffer a humiliating, costly defeat.

So, we must count the cost.

We may be teachers in our churches. We may serve on the church council. We may be deacons or elders. We may be leaders and pastors. But that doesn’t mean that we’re disciples. Do you want to be a disciple of Jesus? It is costly, make no mistake. It will cost you something, and that something is your very life.